Libya's rival forces sign permanent ceasefire at UN-sponsored talks
Rival forces in Libya have agreed a permanent nationwide ceasefire including the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country for a minimum of three months.
“This is a good day for the Libyan people,” said Stephanie Williams, the acting head of the United Nations mission in Libya. She added that she saluted the courage and patriotism of the negotiators who made the deal at UN-sponsored talks in Geneva between military officers representing forces in the east and west of the country.
“The parties have signed a complete countrywide permanent agreement with immediate effect,” Williams said. “The parties agreed to the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory, air, land and seas for three months.” Military trainers will also leave.
Williams said the aim now was to reintegrate the armed forces into a single body, and that this would start with the categorisation and identification of all armed units, whether integrated or not within the main forces on either side.
Although there has been a de facto ceasefire on the ground, the scale of the announced ceasefire and the plans to bring together police and security forces into a joint operations centre is a remarkable advance, at least on paper. The main frontline is between Sirte on the coast and Al Jufrah in central Libya.
The ceasefire includes the full opening of land and air routes, efforts to curb hate speech, an exchange of prisoners and plans to reconstruct the Petroleum Facilities Guard, an oil company and militia body linked to the eastern warlord General Khalifa Haftar that is seen as a threat to the stable flow of oil from Libya.
Although previous ceasefires have been agreed and broken in Libya with frequency, Williams cited the seniority of the military officers singing the agreement. “We should not let the cynics win. If they can reconcile after this long crisis they deserve our support,” she said.
Williams said she had heard optimistic suggestions from the military negotiators that the Ra’s Lanuf refinery and Es Sider oil terminal in eastern Libya would be opened shortly. El Sharara oilfield, Libya’s biggest,resumed operations on 11 October. It is operating at more than half its 300,000 barrels-a-day capacity.
Many oilfields have been shut for a year, depriving the Libyan treasury of billions of dollars in revenue. But with the projected further openings, the country’s production could now reach 1m bpd.
The surprisingly high level of progress in Geneva means the focus now shifts to whether the external actors will end the supply of arms to the warring factions, and agree to withdraw their troops.
Turkey has sent as many as 4,000 Syrian mercenaries to support the UN-recognised government in Tripoli headed by the prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj. Mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation, have supported Haftar, and a steady flow of weaponry has been sent by the United Arab Emirates in blatant breach of the UN arms embargo.
The degree to which the external forces adhere to the terms of the ceasefire will be an issue in the weeks ahead. Williams said: “It is time to listen to the Libyans themselves. Libya is for Libyans. They want to come together to rebuild their country. It is incumbent on the international community to support them in this effort.”
The ceasefire also opens the way for political talks between the parties on future power-sharing arrangements, as well as the future of sovereign institutions including the Central Bank of Libya and Libyan Investment Authority. One cause of the on-off civil war since 2011 has been disputes over the distribution of oil revenues between west and east of the country, and the role of the state institutions.